By Nichole Fitzgerald and Jonathan Male
From March 4–8, the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Offices (BETO), within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), hosted the 2019 Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Project Peer Review in Denver, Colorado. Bioenergy researchers from across the country presented results from more than 400 early-stage R&D projects across BETO’s technology areas: Advanced Algal Systems, Conversion Technologies, Feedstock Supply and Logistics, Advanced Development and Optimization, and Analysis and Sustainability. The projects represented at the Peer Review have a combined value of more than $700 million.
This was the largest Peer Review in BETO history—almost 600 people attended the event! These attendees had the opportunity to evaluate the technical approach, progress, relevance, and overall merit of all of the projects in the BETO portfolio. Bioenergy thought leaders from industry, academia, nonprofit organizations, and federal agencies reviewed individual projects to inform BETO decision-making on modifying, expanding, or discontinuing existing projects. Reviewers also provided an overall assessment of the focus and scope of each technology area.
In addition to BETO project presentations, we had several outstanding plenary sessions. Michael Berube, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation in EERE, opened the Peer Review with an inspiring presentation about our energy future, progress in the transportation sector, and DOE’s research and priorities.
Michael Dishman, Regional Vice President of POET, provided a thought-provoking keynote address on POET’s vision and strategy for achieving their goals of producing more cellulosic ethanol at their integrated biorefinery in Emmetsburg, Iowa. This year, we were excited to have Bill Hohenstein, the Director of the Office of Energy and Environmental Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announce the publication of the Bioeconomy Initiative: Implementation Framework, a multi-agency strategy to accelerate innovative technologies that harness the nation’s biomass resources.
We were delighted to have Daniel Simmons, the Assistant Secretary of the EERE, join us via a video where he articulated his thoughts on DOE’s commitment to advancing affordable and reliable energy, bioenergy as an important piece of DOE’s energy strategy, and EERE’s three key focus areas—energy affordability, energy integration, and energy storage.
On Monday and Tuesday evenings, more than 95 project posters, some of which were reviewed, were showcased at the newly added Poster Sessions. Many attendees perused posters highlighting Small Business Innovation Research projects, various BETO-funded initiatives, and recently awarded funding opportunities across the Office’s technology areas.
We thank each reviewer and member of the Steering Committee for their participation in this year’s review. Their assessments are invaluable to the success and future of BETO. All of us in BETO appreciate their time and their commitment to the success of the Office’s mission to advance applied research and experimental development. Their input will help us evaluate the strategic direction of the Office.
This year’s Peer Review showcased BETO-funded R&D that addresses technology challenges and uncertainties so industry can take on the subsequent scale-up and commercialization of the technologies. This research helps to reduce the price of production of biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts, and supports America’s national security interests, creates American jobs, and boosts economic growth.
We look forward to publishing our Peer Review results in the 2019 Project Peer Review Report, along with the results of the Program Management Review, which will take place in July 2019. Thank you to everyone who made this extraordinary Peer Review such a success.
Several plenary presentations, Daniel Simmons’ video, and the project presentations are available on the 2019 Peer Review website.
Dr. Nichole Fitzgerald is a technology manager in the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) at the U.S. Department of Energy. She manages research and development projects in BETO’s Conversion Program, ranging in topic from catalytic upgrading of biologically derived chemicals to electrochemical processes for upgrading biorefinery intermediates. Nichole is passionate about finding ways to get renewable carbon into the materials we use daily and has pioneered several bioproduct and functional replacement initiatives for BETO. Prior to her current role, Nichole served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at BETO and was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, where she developed highly effective and now commercially available reagents for pharmaceutical applications.
Dr. Jonathan Male is the Director for the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). In this role, he leads the Office’s work to lower costs, reduce technical risk, and accelerate deployment of bioenergy and renewable chemicals technologies. He oversees research and development across the entire supply chain—from sustainable biomass growth and collection to biomass conversion technologies that include biochemical, catalytic, and thermochemical pathways to produce economically viable biofuels and bioproducts. The office’s portfolio of demonstration activities involving public-private partnerships helps BETO staff to evaluate risks and enable industrial entities to move technologies to commercial scale in the emerging bioenergy industry.